Nov 03 2015

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NASA concludes Cygnus launch failure investigation

NASA Concludes Antares Orb-3 Investigation as Cygnus Prepares for Return to Space Station on Atlas-V. The report itself is proprietary, but NASA published an executive summary.

AJ-26 from NASA report
Note: This is a diagram published in the NASA Executive Summary.

NASA was able to identify a single technical root cause, but did identify the following potential Technical Root Causes:

  • TRC-1: Inadequate design robustness of the AJ26 LO2 HBA and turbine-end bearing for Antares
  • TRC-2: Foreign Object Debris (FOD) introduction to the E15 LO2 turbopump
  • TRC-3: Manufacturing or other workmanship defect in the E15 LO2 turbopump

All three TRCs need to be addressed before Antares can launch again.

NASA’s Technical Recommendations are:

  • TR-1: NASA should not rely on the AJ26 for further missions without undertaking a more thorough inspection, qualification and acceptance test, and certification program.
  • TR-2: If Orbital ATK switches to the RD-181 engine, more thorough processes (see TR-1) must be in place.
  • TR-3: Orbital ATK should provide additional sensors and sensor filtering.
  • TR-4: For future engines, sensors more suitable to the test environment should be used.
  • TR-5: Greater insight and verification should be implemented to ensure that cleanliness is consistent with engine (and other critical component) requirements.
  • TR-6: A more robust and verifiable moisture barrier approach should be used
  • TR-7: NASA and Orbital ATK should have greater insight and understanding of engine design, certification and operation.

Antares is set to launch sometime early-ish 2016, so they definitely have their work cut out for them before they’ll be launch certified.

Related Article:
Antares rocket engine failure causes

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/11/03/nasa-concludes-cygnus-launch-failure-investigation/

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